GIFTED AND TALENTED
Although we place high hopes for a
worthwhile future on the gifted and talented youth of today, we often
neglect this group. While many schools like Plainview-Old Bethpage
have programs for these students, many gifted children spend most of
their school day in regular classes. For large portions of their day,
at school and home, they are left to their own devices.
Contrary to the popular
misconceptions that they will do better without interference and that
they will succeed on their own, some gifted children experience
academic, social, and personal problems when they do not receive
support from society and parents. Of primary importance in the
recognition and the development of the special abilities of these
individuals is the active support of the parent, at home and in
Gifted children display their
abilities in a variety of ways, each unique to the individual child.
In general, for most children giftedness is demonstrated by
performance of tasks and understanding of concepts usually associated
with much older children. Reading signs, magazines, and books, and
performing mathematical computations at ages three to five, speaking
complete sentences and using abstract vocabulary at age two and
three-all indicate superior intellectual abilities.
The suggestions that follow are
intended to help parents cope with these challenges.
Often the gifted child feels isolated
from the rest of the world because of the exceptional abilities he or
she possesses. Facing these feelings of difference alone can create
emotional problems, disruptive behaviors, or withdrawal from the
Discuss feelings of difference with
the child as they arise. While we do not want to create problems when
they do not exist, we should always be ready with an understanding
attitude when problems appear.
- Help the child relate to friends
who may not be so gifted. While gifted children should recognize
their abilities, they should also learn to put them into
perspective with the abilities and interests of others. Instead of
setting themselves above others, they should learn to look for
strengths in friends as well as for ways to share their abilities
in a productive manner.
- Explore the difficulties that
arise from too many viable choices. As gifted individuals mature,
they usually find that they are able to excel in many areas, which
at first may seem exciting and fortunate. As classmates begin to
focus on areas of specialization in which they can excel, however,
the gifted may be faced with making a difficult decision among
many equally viable alternatives because they may excel in any of
- Provide structure and boundaries
for behavior. Often gifted children are able to argue very
convincingly about their "rights" to be excused from conventional
behavioral requirements. At times the requirements may be
examined, but at other times they should be accepted on the basis
of adult perspective even when they seem illogical to the
- Encourage the gifted and talented
to challenge themselves. Because of their superior abilities, the
gifted often work at only partial capacity in various areas and
still succeed. This approach to learning, however, may ultimately
create difficulties because the individuals may acquire extremely
poor learning habits that they may not be able to overcome when
they are sufficiently challenged.
- Help gifted children set
realistic self-expectations. Because of their exceptional
abilities, such individuals are often expected to perform at high
levels at all times. After a while they internalize these
expectations and sometimes feel inadequate when they fail to
maintain consistently high levels of performance in all
Parents play an important role in the
development of exceptional abilities in children, especially in
encouraging a favorable attitude toward these tendencies.
- Encourage children to play an
active, real role in family decisions. Listen to their
suggestions, applying them wherever possible.
- Try to encourage integration of
ideas by drawing relationships among ideas and events. Discuss
possible consequences of actions, both personal and societal,
building upon daily activities and current events.
- Encourage storytelling and use of
the imagination. Allow flights of fancy, even projecting ideas to
the absurd. Explore and laugh with the children, developing a
sense of humor as well as an interest in the fanciful.
- Encourage experimentation, even
when possibilities of success are slim. Treat lack of success as
part of the learning process, examining some of the possible
causes for failure and other roads that may have been more
- Provide opportunities for a
variety of methods of expression, includifig photography, an, tape
recording, dramatic and other activities.
- Provide a variety of books,
magazines, puzzles, and games that promote use of the imagination,
logical thinking, drawing inferences, and making
- Help gifted and talented
individuals become critical viewers and readers by discussing
influences the mass media such as television and literature may
have on personal and social values.
- Establish open communication with
teachers and administrators about educating the gifted and
talented. Some parents are reluctant to admit that their children
may be gifted and assume that schools will automatically take care
of them or that they will get along by themselves.
- When discussing a gifted child
with teachers, provide anecdotes illustrating the child's
exceptional abilities and interests outside school. Teachers may
not alwavs recognize such abilities because the child mav not
demonstrate them in the classroom.
- Seek out other parents of gifted
children and share concerns and ideas. Such communication may not
only help each parent feel less alone but may also provide
resources for the children, including contact with other gifted
children of similar interests, trips, or even programs for the
gifted. As a group, parents of gifted and talented may be able to
promote program development in schools for their children.
- Explore what is being done
elsewhere for gifted and talented through readings, visits, or
writing school districts with programs for the gifted. Information
about the issue and about various approaches may help your child's
school initiate its own program. Share such information with other
Because of their heightened
perceptions and sensitivities, many gifted children need an
environment that is secure emotionally and stimulating intellectually
to allow their abilities to flourish. Too many adults overlook their
needs, however, assuming that these children already have advantages
others lack. Consequently, much is left to parents to provide for the
gifted. Working with the child, with other parents, and with the
school, parents can accomplish this awesome, often frustrating,
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